A place to speakeasy

Eye on KELOLAND

There’s something brewing in every community across KELOLAND. And when one Yankton bar owner isn’t creating his own beer, he’s looking to share what other people are brewing in their communities.

Since it began in 2005, Ben’s Brewing Co. has been a place that has people in Yankton talking.

“It’s just fun to see the community that pops up around a bar: a bar, beer, live music seems to be something where we can get a lot of interesting conversations out of people,” Hanten said.

But there’s more than just a good time brewing at this bar…

“About a year and a half ago we brought in a brewery,” Hanten said.

Located in the basement, Owner Ben Hanten uses this space to get his creativity hopping.

“I’ve always been a big craft beer fan and I think the creativity and the art in making your own product is really fun,” Hanten said.

“It’s an old 1880s building in the heart of downtown Yankton,” Hanten said.

A building this old is bound to have many secrets.

And, if you look close enough, you’ll find there’s one more…

Don’t let the brick wall fool you.

Beyond it lies Hanten’s speakeasy which he has dubbed “The Copper Room.”

“There was wood paneling over plaster with a bunch of wallpaper, low ceilings. Now we’ve turned it into a really comfortable space with exposed brick walls and original parquet wood flooring. It used to be gambling and brothels in this historic old town,” Hanten said.

Back during the prohibition era, speakeasies were kept in secret but, for Hanten, there are no secrets.

In fact, he welcomes conversation through his podcast which he calls The Lanyard.

As a business owner he uses the podcast to share the stories and struggles of other business owners.

“I used to travel to conferences. I used to go to any event I could and learn from these people at events and you always had a lanyard around your neck. So the lanyard was the thing that signified that you were an event goer,” Hanten said.

A family man now, Hanten can’t make it out to events.
So he brings the guests to him…

“I’ve had the head nun up at the convent here in town, I’ve had our former Lieutenant governor, I’ve had the CEO of First Dakota Bank.”

And, the most recent addition to his list, fellow podcaster and business owner Nick Schmeichel.

“Ben is a great dude to talk to. I’ve known him for a while now and it was really fun chatting with him,” Schmeichel said.

But they’re looking to brew more than just a casual conversation…

“We need to figure out how we’re connecting to our community and making our community a better place… to retain a workforce and retain people here,” Schmeichel said.

But even though Hanten is often found behind the bar, that isn’t stopping him from extending his reach beyond the counter.

“I’ve always been a fan of learning what other communities do and bringing those ideas back there. Really, that’s what happened here in this speakeasy and in our brewery is that we learn something from people doing it elsewhere and brought it in-house. So we want to bring some experts in from other states too and hopefully this can be a hub,” Hanten said.

A hub, or pub, that will keep people talking.

“I think anytime you can have a conversation about your community, or communities in general, you’re putting out some information out there that somebody can learn something from. Really… that’s one of the things that great about… life in general; just continuing learning about different things and Ben’s doing a great job about putting out great content,” Schmeichel said.

Hanten started The Lanyard back in January. And he’s already produced 24 individual hour-long episodes. He’s looking to have 52 before the year is up.

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